Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and is a city of exploration, where urban regeneration and heritage thrive. The surrounding Canterbury region offer visitors unforgettable journeys and picturesque towns. Escape to Hanmer Springs for a thermal soak, or north to Kaikōura to encounter the local wildlife. The close proximity of the ski fields of the Southern Alps, hotels, a casino, and an international airport make Christchurch a stopover destination for many tourists. Christchurch is known as the Garden City, a well-deserved name with a striking number of trees that grow like a forest throughout the suburbs. The Avon River flows through the center of the city, with an urban park located along its banks. Riverside Market, the largest indoor market on the South Island, with fresh local produce, dozens of food stalls, communal seating areas and artworks all over the place.
Thirty hectares of exotic and indigenous plants and trees wrapped in a loop of the picturesque Avon River form the Botanic Gardens which links to the one hundred and sixty hectare Hagley Park. These parks put the “Garden” in the ‘Garden City’ and the combined total makes the second largest inner city park in the world after New York’s Central Park. Adjoining the Botanic Gardens is the Canterbury Museum and it includes colonial, Maori and natural history sections, Antarctic exploration display, and visiting exhibitions.
Christchurch has a history of involvement in Antarctic exploration, both Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton used the port of Lyttelton as a departure point for expeditions. Within the city, the Canterbury Museum preserves and exhibits many historic artefacts and stories of Antarctic exploration. International Antarctic Centre is a world-class Antarctic experience with simulated polar weather, Hagglund All-Terrain Vehicle ride, penguins, extensive exhibits about Antarctic science missions.
If your time is limited in NZ, this is a great way to experience an example of the country’s native wildlife. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve focuses on New Zealand species including Kiwi in a natural environment. As well as having public displays of various animal species it also carries out conservation of native species including Tuatara, Kiwi, Brown Teal, and Duvaucel’s Gecko. Willowbank also holds the only pair of Takahe on display in the South Island of New Zealand outside a Department of Conservation facility.
Located between Christchurch and Lyttelton, Christchurch Gondola is a must-visit attraction. From your cable car, expect to see incredible 360-degree views of Christchurch, Lyttelton and the Southern Alps. At the summit, visit the cafe for a treat, browse the Shop at the Top and go back in time on the Time Tunnel ride.
Experience a Jet boat ride on the snow fed Waimakariri River in the shallow river flats. When time is limited but you still want to experience the thrill of jet boating then this option satisfies those requirements. A thrilling jet boat option in the shallow river flats of the snowfed Waimakariri River. A one hour long, jet boat ride in the snowfed waters of the Waimakariri takes you through the canyons and gorges where steep rock faces are lined with native forest.
Two and a half hours to the north is Kaikōura, which is one of New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism destinations offering a variety of exciting activities and experiences. The retention of the town’s distinctive character has made Kaikouura extremely attractive to artists. The new Kaikôura Marine Management Area developed to conserve Kaikøura’s whales, dolphins, seals, albatrosses and rock lobster. Kaikōura is one of the few places in the world where Sperm Whales can be seen year-round and close to shore. They congregate here because the 3km deep Kaikōura Canyon runs right up against the coast creating a rare system of sea currents that sustain an incredibly rich marine food chain. Kekeno (New Zealand fur seal) can be observed from various points along the road that hugs the Kaikōura Coast. Dusky dolphins are highly social animals, living together in groups called pods, which in the Kaikōura region can consist of individuals numbering anywhere from 100 to 800 in each pod.